July Highlights on TCM
In partnership with The Film Foundation, Turner Classic Movies is proud to bring you this exclusive monthly column by iconic film director and classic movie lover Martin Scorsese.
LEONARD BERNSTEIN CENTENNIAL (July 20-July 22, 8pm)--This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein. For many of us who grew up in the 2nd half of the 20th century, he was a household name--he's actually mentioned in the REM song "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)." In the world of classical music, he was a dynamic, flamboyant superstar conductor--he was as exciting to watch as a movie star. He became familiar to TV audiences of the '50s and '60s for his Omnibus programs and Young People's Concerts--he didn't just popularize classical music, he brought it into the homes of TV audiences, talked through the pieces in perfectly understandable terms, and made listening to the music a joyful experience. He gave new life to the music of Gustav Mahler. He composed ballets, operas, symphonies, song cycles, chamber pieces, Broadway shows and one film score. To celebrate his centenary, TCM is showing many of the Omnibus episodes and Young People's Concerts, and they're also showing the three movies with scores by Bernstein, On the Town, West Side Story and On the Waterfront. The first two are film versions of his most famous Broadway musicals (unfortunately, there was no film version of Wonderful Town), and only a few of the original songs from On the Town made it into the film. On the Waterfront was his only original score and it's truly remarkable. Apparently it was the producer Sam Spiegel's idea to ask Bernstein to score the picture. Elia Kazan claimed that he found it excessive, but it is impossible to imagine On the Waterfront without it. Bernstein's music is big, but so are the images and the performances, and the total effect is something like grand opera.
PRODUCED BY VAL LEWTON (July 30, 6am)--On July 30, TCM is doing another program of Val Lewton's pictures--nine to be exact, including six of his famous horror films, followed by a documentary that I produced and narrated for this channel. I've come back to these films so often over the years and with every new viewing they deepen. With the exception of Please Believe Me, a comedy that Lewton produced at MGM after he left RKO, each of the pictures in this program is a lesson in cinema. They were made with extremely low budgets on very tight shooting schedules, circumstances that Lewton and his directors, screenwriters, actors and technicians turned into opportunities. The stories they told in images and sounds made great use of what was not said or seen. Every image and every gesture and every cut counts in these pictures, and so does everything we hear: bushes rustling in the wind, footsteps echoing on a Central Park transverse, or slowly dripping water work with what we're actually seeing to build mysterious, troubling sensations and flashes in the mind's eye. I marvel at these pictures, which every young aspiring filmmaker should watch--it's a great experience to see them all grouped together, by the way. In Val Lewton's cinema, less truly is more.
by Martin Scorsese